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Front Page » January 11, 2011 » Opinion » The Wasatch Behind: Federal regulation infatuation
Published 1,731 days ago

The Wasatch Behind: Federal regulation infatuation

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Sun Advocate Columnist

If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.

There's more than one way to skin a cat.

The end justifies the means.

Winning by any means is cheating by any measure.

What do these sayings all have in common? This is the way the Obama administration is now making laws. It's a way to cheat the legislative process.

Don't believe it? Let us consider the latest federal land grab. Way back in the late 1980s, a well-funded collection of wilderness advocacy groups proposed The Red Rock Wilderness Act. It was a tree-hugger's dream. The legislation would have locked up 9-million acres of Utah as wilderness. The land would be closed to any purpose but scenic solitude. There would be no development, no mineral extraction, no roads, no vehicles or machinery, and none of the riff-raff usually found in and around our national parks, like families with little kids, old people, people with special needs, and ordinary people with jobs and only two weeks of annual vacation. Fortunately, in spite of heroic efforts by Utah's first green-as-grass congressman, Wayne Owens, the original bill went down in flames. So did Wayne Owens in the1992 election. Bummer dude.

If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. The Red Rock Wilderness Bill has been resurrected several times since the 80s, but each time the proposed legislation died in committee or failed to receive enough congressional support to become law. The last time the bill was aborted was in 2009 during Obama's first year in office. The Democrats gave it their best shot, but even wilderness woman Nancy Pelosi couldn't get it passed.

This posed a problem for president Obama and his army of czars. They had promised some serious payback to the wilderness lobby for their support in the last presidential election. What to do?

The wise and stealthy chief executive realized that he still had two options to make good on his promise. He could create the desired wilderness by presidential decree, the way Bill Clinton did with the Grand Staircase Escalante, or, better yet, he could do an end run around Congress and the legislative process and put the blame on the Bureau of Land Management. All he had to do was say the magic word: REGULATION.

There's more than one way to skin a cat.

What a brilliant strategy. The process is simple; just give an existing agency, in this case the BLM, administrative power to create the wilderness paradise by federal regulation, using existing statutes. No new laws need to be passed, no congressional approval sought, no votes, no hearings, no hassle, no problems, and almost no publicity. Joseph Stalin would have been impressed.

The end justified the means.

By a directive from the Secretary of the Interior, the "protected" lands are not even considered wilderness anymore. They are called Wild Lands. Just as global warming has become climate change because the data fails to support the premise, the creation of Wild Lands is easier to do than wilderness because wilderness has been defined by congress to fit a specific set of standards. Wild Lands don't have to meet such stringent requirements. All they need is wilderness characteristics. By this measure, almost any part of rural Utah can be designated as Wild Lands, and thus, potential de-facto wilderness. It was a masterful act of political slight-of-hand.

Does it really matter that winning by any means is cheating by any measure?

This nightmare of regulatory strangulation will surely kill Utah jobs, energy development, economic well-being and recreational opportunities. The administration seems to expect we will all become compliant, happy little backpackers, but that doesn't pay the bills and put the kids through college. We need jobs, the kind of jobs we will lose in this elitist, Wild Lands paradise. But that doesn't matter to the powers that be.

When our small towns become ghost towns there will be even more Wild Lands the federal monster can claim.

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January 11, 2011
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